Something to declare

A likely story "Privatisation will result in maintained consistency in our on-time performance" - LIAT Islander, the inflight magazine of Leeward Islands Air Transport.
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The Independent Travel
This claim, if true, is not good news for those accustomed to LIAT's consistent unreliability. But aficionados of the Caribbean's uniquely unpredictable airline will be relieved to hear that the recent sell-off has does nothing to change its style. Over the years stranded passengers have had ample time to invent alternatives for its acronym: Leaving Island Any Time, Luggage In Another Terminal or, Late If At All.

A recent trip through the Eastern Caribbean reminded me of why the airline inspires a BR-style mix of affection and loathing among its users. Its most quixotic habit is not to display departure times, since this would make it a hostage to fortune. One therefore depends on announcements, which are normally inaudible and timed to coincide with the arrival of an incoming jet. In St Kitts, one announcement announced that an announcement would shortly tell us what had happened to our missing plane. Departing passengers have been known to rush out onto the tarmac in pursuit of a departing plane, only to find it was an entirely different service, equally unannounced.

Once on board, don't be surprised by a few unscheduled island stops en route. Conversely, if nobody else wants to go to the same island as you, market forces may prevail and your destination may be dropped altogether - an element of last-minute suspense in every flight.

On the plus side, LIAT has a good safety record, its little Twin Otters landing on some of the world's shortest and scariest airstrips. Its Airpass and Explorer deals allow you to do some extensive island-hopping at a reasonable price and connect you to some otherwise inaccessible destinations.

Privatisation may turn LIAT into a streamlined, efficient operation. There again, the big new shareholder is none other than British West Indian Airways (BWIA), itself not famed for scrupulous punctuality. The omens are not promising.

James Ferguson

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